Friday, 9 May 2014

Friday Five: Bob Hoskins

Bob Hoskins, according to his Wikipedia entry (so it must be true), was an English actor known for playing cockneys and gangsters - sometimes both at the same time! His death last week, leads naturally to introspection about some of his great acting roles. 

All of the obituaries mention Who Framed Roger Rabbit, which was perhaps the film that made his name (voice, and gorgeously round face) globally recognisable. The combination of animation and live action in that film was remarkable and deserves acclaim. It also launched his career as a friendly uncle type and he went on to delight children's audiences with roles such as Badger in Wind in the Willows, Smee in Hook, and Geppetto in Pinocchio

At the time it was released in 1988, however, I was anti-Hollywood, cartoons and anything that stank of cheesy Americana, so it was never a favourite of mine. I appreciate that it was arty, ground-breaking and full of inside jokes, but I preferred (and still do) my films to be a little more subtle and thought-provoking.

5 Favourite Bob Hoskins Films (in chronological order):
  1. Felicia's Journey (1999) - Before he became a cuddly Cockney, Bob Hoskins could be a creepy chappie, and never more so than in this psychological thriller. His turn as the sinister middle-aged caterer with chilling secrets reminds us that he used to play gangsters in the likes of The Long Good Friday and that he was a fantastic embodiment of Shakespeare's ultimate villain, Iago.
  2. Last Orders (2001) - one of those rare occasions where the film adaptation is as good as the (very good/ Booker Prize-winning) novel. It's all about the characters, as the group of drinking buddies and the son of the recently deceased Jack take his ashes to scatter them in the sea at Margate. Tom Courtenay, David Hemmings, and Ray Winstone join Bob in this last journey, and flashbacks include the brilliance of Michael Caine and Helen Mirren (as Jack and his wife). It's poignant, funny and beautiful.
  3. Vanity Fair (2004) - Bob Hoskins is frequently described as a character actor, and he does pop up in convincing cameos in everything from Dickens to Shakespeare. His turn as Sir Pitt Crawley in this frock romp is a generously understated example of why he is such a gift to directors and producers; making all the characters look even better.
  4. Mrs Henderson Presents (2005) - Playing the antithesis of his creepy old man role in Felicia's Journey, Hoskins provides the perfect foil to Dame Judi's rapier in this sweet, sentimental period piece full of warmth and wit in potentially seedy circumstances, as the Windmill Theatre introduced (sanctioned) nudity to the British stage.
  5. Made in Dagenham (2010) - I have a soft spot for this film because I saw it with a really good friend in a really good cinema. It's also about the struggle for equal wages for women, so of course I am going to appreciate the subject matter. It's full of working-class good will and solidarity, which makes you nostalgic for a time when people actually cared about each other, even though it probably never quite existed. Hoskins plays the union rep who is overwhelmed by the proximity of so many gobby women, but he remains the lovable cockney character we have come to recognise, posing the question, who will play these roles now? (Answer: Probably Ray Winston whose career seems to be following a similar path.)